La Naval de Manila: A priceless gift | Inquirer Opinion

La Naval de Manila: A priceless gift

01:50 PM October 08, 2022

Our Lady of the Rosary La Naval de Manila

Today, the miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, popularly known as La Naval de Manila, will once again be brought out in a solemn procession. For the past two years, this was not held due to the pandemic. The magnificent image is now more than 400 years old, and people often ask: “How much is it worth?” To answer that question, let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, a young man named Pedro received from his father a beautiful bracelet embellished with sparkling stones. With great solemnity, his father said: “My son, I am handing you this bracelet which I received as a gift from my father. He told me that this is our family treasure, which has been passed on from one generation to the next. I now hand it to you as our family heritage. It is the symbol of what is best in each of us.” Pedro could not help asking: “How much is this bracelet worth?” His father replied: “A gift is only as good as the hands that received it.” A few days later, his father died.

One day, Pedro heard about a collector who was an expert in antique jewelry. Excitedly, he had the bracelet appraised. He imagined it was worth millions. But the collector’s verdict, the jewelry was not real gold. The stones in it were fake. The collector wouldn’t even buy it for 500 pesos. Pedro was shocked. He took the bracelet to one pawnshop after another. The appraisers also had the same opinion.


Our Lady of the Rosary La Naval de Manila

He was about to throw away the necklace when he remembered what his father said: a gift is only as good as the hands that received it. For the first time, the meaning of those words dawned on him. He realized that he placed more importance on its price when he should have been more concerned about its VALUE. The bracelet is priceless because it is their family treasure. It is the symbol of what is best in their family.

The image of Our Lady of the Rosary of La Naval is like Pedro’s bracelet. If we bring the image to jewelry experts to be appraised of its value, they might say it is worth nothing. If we bring it to born-again Christians who are allergic to images, they will say we are idolaters. They will tell us to burn it and bury it in the ground.

But if what Pedro’s father said is true: that a gift is only as good as the hands where it rests, then the worth of the image of Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary of La Naval, should not be measured by its glittering ornaments, but by what it means to us as a people and nation.

In truth, the image has ceased to be merely the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It has been transformed into a symbol of what is good in our character, what is true in our culture, and what is powerful in our faith.


The image reminds us that in 1646, a Dutch armada threatened to annex the country to the Dutch East Indies and render extinct the Catholic faith. Filipino and Spanish soldiers went to sea to repel the invaders, using creaking galleons remodeled into warships, and armed with inferior weapons and substandard ammunition. The war seemed lost even before the first shot was fired.

But before the fighting began, the Filipino soldiers prayed the Rosary and pleaded to God for assistance, through the intercession of the Blessed Mother. They solemnly made a vow that, should they win the battle, they would walk barefoot to the Santo Domingo Church to thank God and pay homage to the image of Our Lady of the Rosary.


Historians narrate that as the war raged on, the Dutch fleet retreated, with “heavy casualty,” while the outnumbered Filipino and Spanish forces suffered only minimal damage. The Dutch navy never again threatened to invade the country.

Looking back at that historic event, Filipinos fought unafraid, prayed unashamedly, and later walked barefoot at dawn in solemn fulfillment of a promise made to God. Such heroism, spurred by devotion to Mary and her Rosary, was repeated throughout our history, most recently in the People Power Revolution of 1986, where we showed the world why the Filipino is worth dying for.

Today, the insidious enemies that plunge our country into hopelessness and despair are no longer lurking outside. They are within us: our tendency towards rampant divisiveness, factionalism, and collective apathy. La Naval de Manila reminds us that, as a people, we have what it takes to overcome these, if only we get our act together and draw strength from our most precious resource: our faith in God’s abiding providence, our devotion to the Blessed Mother, and our belief in what we can achieve, if only we can get our act together.

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The image of Mary, La Naval de Manila, is a priceless gift, our family treasure. On this day, this image in all its grandeur will be brought out during the annual traditional procession. There is no better time than now to show our better selves.

Fr. Rolando V. de la Rosa, OP is former rector magnificus of the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas and former chair of the Commission on Higher Education.
TAGS: La Naval, La Naval de Manila, Mary

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